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THURSDAY NOV. 13, 2003

Artist/filmaker Bill Morrisons Light is Calling at Maya Stendhal Gallery, 545 W 20th Street, 6-8 , Thursday November 13

Conceptual artist Matthias Groebel's Collective Memories at Universal Concepts Unlimited, 507 W. 24th St., 6-8, Saturday November 15

Two show openings this week I want to recommend (and another that is open) but first.....

"Oh my God I going to die!"

Not soon but eventually.

This past week I missed all the auction house contemporary preview parties and that really sucked. The reason was that my upstairs neighbor's husband's mother died and those events took precedence. After her son was born of 11 years ago I kind of dropped out of sight for five years, as I have been episodically known do, to baby sit, and often in the company of the Grandma, now deceased. She was a wholly original and liberal Manhattan free thinker and she and I became pretty good friends. Until Friday.

It was a lovely and altogether gloriously somber funeral for about 350 at the Riverside but, as is the case with some Jewish funerals, there was a fair amount of laughter within the tears. So much so I had to try and stifle myself, because although quietly sobbing I almost became almost gleefully hysterical in the funny parts. Such as when her daughter sincerely and thankfully remarked, "What other mother would have driven me to visit my first boyfriend when he was at Riker's Island?"

No one in my family.

All in all it was quite a shock because she had kept her illness secret from me, and being a model of fitness and health and still fairly young, when I heard she was in the hospital two weeks ago I didn't visit her because I just assumed I'd see her again. Which I guess is as clumsy an introduction to my next subject - what I like about death, decay and destruction - as I can imagine?

So- To the two shows that I want to recommend to you straight away because of their seemingly delightful and delirious fascination with death, decay and deterioration.

First up is Bill Morrison, a Cooper Union artist/Filmmaker, born 1965, who lives/works in New York and whose principal oeuvre seems to be the non linear poetic narrative of fairly abstract animated films made from found silent era film footage that is in the process of deteriorating faster than a vampire in the sunlight. Bill Morrison. who opens a solo show on Thursday at Maya Stendhal Gallery, 545 W 20th Street, 6-8 demonstrates his expertly Greenbergian use of ancient celloloidal materials in a fashion similar to Orson Wells' use of the news reel breaking and burning in the early Citizen Kane sequence, using in every frame the very fragility of film itself draw attention to the larger theme of its impeding mass extinction due to chemical instability and time. (I know the feeling, it's called aging.)

You know that it would be untrue

You know that I would be liar

If I were to state to you

Girl we couldn't get much higher

And our love will become a funeral pyre

Come on baby light my Fire

-Jim Morrison, Doors


"Each frame is printed at least twice so the viewer may better examine each frame, and make the subliminal observation that they're watching 24 paintings every second. The idea follows thematically that the present is unknowable as it exists fleetingly and then is relegated to the past. The present is also the only thing that exists objectively, as once it is relegated to the past it becomes part of our (subjective) ordering of the world."

-Bill Morrison, artist/filmmaler


If any of you, my beloved unidentified recipients, go to the web page http://dks.thing.net/ you will see a an amber, brown, gold and white flickering animation which is supposed to be a representation of this really delightful new video "Light Is Calling" (8 minutes, 2003) by Bill Morrison which opens at Maya Stendhal Gallery Thursday as a DVD projection along with some other films and some related prints. Also note if you are patient and have Real Player you can watch a teeny version of Light is Calling on the web site that allows you to hear pretty good version of the relentless symphony of soundtrack by a renowned composer Michael Gordon, which I happen to think is very good.

Of Doughnuts, Death and Hockey Pucks - when good film goes bad

From the days of Edison and Eastman cinema's pioneering trailblazers settled celluloid, the world's first synthetic plastic (which is produced by treating cellulose nitrate - cotton combined with a mixture of nitric acid and sulfuric acid- with camper and alcohol.) It seemed like the ideal flexible transparent support for their experimental emulsions. The nitric cellulose medium, however, had a few (ka-BOOM) explosive drawbacks- a close cousin of nitro 'nitro" it could blow up and if not that, burn so fast and hot you might wish it would. This is why preservation can be such a blast. Silent film do not age well.

Inflammatory melodramatics or explosive trauma aside these disasters pale compared to the slow burn that is consumes the stock itself. The slow corrosive death of a material that is at the center of Morrison's work.

This is because old film (like yours truly) is chemically unstable. Cellulose nitrate began deteriorating the moment it's made and quickly begins a process that turns the silvery images a smoky brown as the emulsion at first goes sticky, then begins to foam and gel and fester and ooze and smell like the an overripe row of trash cans on a West Village Sunday morning in late July. (I know you know what I'm talking about?) Soon the plastic totally depolymerizes and the reels start going from donuts to hockey pucks, after which they crumble into acidic reddish combustible power faster than a zombies on Buffy the Vampire Killer. Like a bad marriage the acid just burns them out from the inside until they either explode, burn up or have to be disposed of by a hazmat team.

So through the flickering beauty of the festering film stock with its seminal glimpses of life cheating death through the rituals of human endeavor we are all so witnessing the final death rattles of an entire aspect of American culture - the celluloid film. Tens of thousands of these films have exploded, burnt or dried up, what a disaster, but it sure looks good here. But so bittersweet and sad too. See you there Thursday?

The Stendhal Gallery is one door down and one flight up from Feigen Contemporary, 535 West 20th Street, where Jeremy Blake opened a very interesting show Autumn Almanac on Thursday October 30 of video animation, painting and Digital C-prints that chronicle his fascination with a rock and roll fashion designer from London's swinging '60s. The video, more accurately the DVD, comes where a choice of soundtracks, but having heard both I feel that the the one with the languid Pastiche of psychedelic British freestyle drug drenched and celebrity filled prose crafted by Mr. Blake for Clarissa Dalrymple is really the way to go. It really slows the animation down and draws you into the story and the era visuals and works particularly well I have observed with a group of people who had a glass of wine at an opening or . It's a groovy kind of beautiful.

The other show about death I like to recommend opens on Saturday and that is Matthias Groebels Collective Memories at Universal Concepts Unlimited, Matthias is a German painter born in 1958 in Aachen who lives and works in Cologne. I really don't know what to expect from the work but he sent me a very interesting background site for his show yesterday, including details of his primary sources and the paintings thematic backdrop. Some of which I am going to paraphrasefor you right now. http://www.eyewithwings.net/CollectiveMemories

"Much of Collective Memories comes from the tradition of the danse macabre, and in particular its use by three artists: Simone Baschenis, James Ensor and the Grateful Dead."

"The danse macabre is grim and festive. Like the related motifs of memento mori and the triumph of the dead, it began as a form of religious expression disengaged from biblical stories. In the 14th century, as the black plague spread across Europe, it gained widespread popularity. In those days, there was a thin line between fervent entreaties for transcendent relief and the no less enthusiastic celebration of the fleeting moments of worldly life. Skeletons, merrily engaged in all aspects of life from dancing and drinking to fornication, were the ultimate symbols of the danses ambiguity, and were soon adopted as its mascot."

Furthermore (whatever this means?)

"The Grateful Dead are, in fact, the perfect counterpoint to Simone Baschenis. Baschenis used the religious veil of the danse macabre to convey anarchic sympathies. The Grateful Dead, by contrast, used the motif as a tool to remain within an anarchic movement while expressing their religious zeal."

Conceptual artist Matthias Groebel unveils his digital paintings (Collective Memories) Saturday November 15 at Universal Concepts Unlimited 507 W. 24th St., 6-8.

He is also speaking at November 18 Treasured Crumbs Parks Upgrade at Eyebeam, 540-548 W. 21st at, 7:30, if you want to see him in the flesh so to speak. During the Upgrade! Matthias` will review the process of creating the works as well as background information about his use of the danse macabre motif.




Until then, as always.... Dont fear the Reaper.

Sincerely yours,


The Douglas Kelley Show


525 W. 45th St. #2

New York, NY 10036